Steed & Company Lavender – Sparta

Steed and Company farm shop, SpartaEver since returning from my French adventure this summer, I have been feeling a little nostalgic for quaint European charm and enveloping scents that stir up precious memories. It’s one of the reason French women fill their lives with beautiful perfumes – one reminds them of an ex-lover, another of the new one, and yet the third of one still to come (oh la la!). So on the most recent sunny September weekend, I packed up the boy and went in search of my field of dreams – lavender!

Just 20 minutes from London, outside of the tiny historical village of Sparta, sits Steed & Company Lavender farm. It’s one of a number of beautiful lavender farms that dot southwestern and central Ontario and fill the air with a wonderful calming fragrance. I stepped out of the car with big expectations of purple fantasies…and I quickly learned two things: lavender blooms in June/July, and there are many varieties of lavender, English being a much more popular cultivation than French.

Steed and Company small garden, SpartaLavender shrubs, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender flowers, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender field, Steed and Company, SpartaHence, we were greeted by tiny green shrubs laid out in geometric rows with only a sprinkle of the precious purple blooms. However, we found a few other things that fed my fragrant fantasies…beginning with some lavender ice cream!

Lavender shop, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender ice cream cart, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender sachets, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender cookbook and cookies, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender preserves, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender honey, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender soap, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender conditioner, Steed and Company, SpartaLavender gift sets, Steed and Company, SpartaAnd just at the entrance to the farm, I found another piece of magical real estate!

Enchanted forest sign, Steed and Company, SpartaEnchanted Forest clearing, Steed and Company, SpartaEnchanted Forest art, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaFairy house, Steed and Company, SpartaAlthough I was disappointed in missing the purple lavender fields, I look forward to catching them next summer (it’s already in the calendar!) and I hope I’ve inspired you guys to make the short trip to Sparta.

In the meantime, I will be enjoying my jar of lavender honey which I picked up on the way out!


Railway City Arts Crawl, St Thomas

Fox painting by Katelyn Tippin featured at The Railway City Arts Crawl in St. Thomas Ontario

Original art work by Katelyn Tippin


With temperatures this weekend showing some signs of warming up, it’s the perfect time to head outside and explore. The boy and I love finding ways to celebrate local art and culture, and after receiving a tip I knew I had to share this with all of you!

Just 15 minutes outside of London, a FREE winter event will spark your creativity and imagination. The St. Thomas Railway City Arts Crawl features 40 artists in a dozen locations displaying paintings, installations, scultpture, and even jewellery. There is nothing more exciting than meeting talented people who produce original artwork and having the opportunity to chat with them in person.

The event starts tonight from 6 -9 PM and runs until tomorrow afternoon 11-5 PM. Be sure to pick up the event passport, which also serves as a guide to the venues and artists, and collect stamps at each location. A stamped passport will qualify you to win some amazing prizes!!!

And if that wasn’t enough, a firework display and a deliciously catered After Party with live music at the Midtown Tavern will cap off the night! So I urge you to find some FUN in FEBRUARY and head out to the Arts Crawl!

More than Bread at this Bar

Bread Bar Restaurant in Hamilton OntarioIf you read my previous post you’d know that we spent some time in Hamilton doing a little Christmas shopping. And trust me, nothing works up more of an appetite than that little activity. So when we left Pure Home Couture with our shopping bags filled and tummies rumbling, we headed down the street to the Bread Bar.

This is a tiny Earth to Table restaurant which at the time of our visit was packed to the rafters with locals and visitors alike. We were advised to make reservations for future visits or we could be in for quite a wait….and this one was well worth it. The menu is mostly made up of local, seasonal ingredients and is varied to satisfy all palates. But in my humble opinion, don’t miss the pizza!

Sweet Treats at Bread Bar in Hamilton OntarioSavoury Pastries at the Bread Bar in HamiltonPizzas at the Bar at Bread Bar Hamilton OntarioBread Bar Hamilton MenuThe only thing I’m not happy about is that Hamilton is so far away. I have a feeling Bread Bar could easily have turned into my weekly must do!

Treasure Hunting in Hamilton

Pure Home Couture Store Hamilton - View to front of storeWith only 52 days left until Christmas and a long list of gift recipients, it’s high time I got my shopping butt in gear. I wish I  was one of those people with gifts bought and wrapped by August (especially when the inevitable snow storms hit and I’m left giftless and feeling guilty). However, I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator. Although I love the feeling of finding the perfect item for that special person, I’m usually doing it under pressure. Major stress! That is until now. I’ve found the perfect place where I can strike off a few names from the gift list and truly enjoy the shopping experience. Pure Home Couture, is my newly discovered treasure trove of Christmas gift ideas!

I heard whispers of this amazing gem hidden in the depths of Hamilton and I couldn’t wait to check it out. On a sunny weekend, the boy and I made the hour long trip outside of London and we weren’t disappointed.

Pure Home Couture Store - Back Corner ViewChristmas Gift Ideas Hamilton - Wall Mounted ArtChristmas Gift Ideas - Pure Home Couture in Hamilton Scented Bath BombsChristmas Gift Idea - Pure Home Couture Hamilton - Apothecary CandlesClimbing to an upper floor of an innocuous looking building, I was transported to the ultimate shopping experience. The space feels historic with a soaring beamed ceiling and wooden plank floors. Softly glowing chandeliers sparkle against dark painted walls creating a warm coziness and a relaxed atmosphere. Shabby chic armoires and painted tables display scented candles, beauty products and sparkling jewels. The whole store has a feeling of stepping into a french country dream you don’t ever want to leave.

Poking through the items found in every corner of the space was like a veritable treasure hunt. There are unique greeting cards, baby items, and dishes stacked among a huge variety of the most delicious home scents including Bergamot Tea, Cassis and Rose, and Blood Orange. My personal favourite, Vintage Peony, has already made it’s way onto my bedside table.

Pure Couture Hamilton Scented SticksChristmas Gift Idea - Pure Home Couture Scented SoapTokyo Milk LotionPrincess Crowns and NapkinsPink Poodle BookendsColbert Scented Candle at Pure Home Couture in HamiltonAcca kappa lip balmJewelry displayBelle-de-Provence-ProductsI absolutely love this store and even the boy was enamoured with the shopping space and selection. Neither one of us could believe that Hamilton was hiding such a fabulous shopping destination and I couldn’t wait to share this find with all of you. I promise that a visit here will help you strike a few names off your Christmas list and like me, you will leave with some Christmas gift ideas for yourself!


A Taste of Niagara-on-the-Lake

FeetOn a sunny but cool Sunday morning, the boy and I set out on an early morning tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake. But we weren’t just planning to join the hordes of tourists cluttering the sidewalks of the prettiest town in Canada. No way! If we were going to drive two hours and then commit to walking for two more, there was going to be a reward that my taste buds would appreciate! Enter Niagara-on-the-Lake “Taste the Town” food tours.

Taste the Town Tour in Niagara-on-the-LakeJam tasting outside Greaves Jams in Niagara-on-the-LakeWe met Bill, the guide, and the other members joining the tour on the main street running through town. After an initial intro of names and where we hailed from, the thirteen of us, some from as far as Vancouver and Saskatoon, quickly fell into a friendly banter. Of course, I had to roll my eyes when once again someone assumed that we hailed from “the other London” (must be the accent…NOT!).

As the tour began, we popped into our first stop, Greaves Jams and Marmalades to sample three jams; apricot, plum, and blueberry. Everyone had a favourite. I had my first sugar rush of the day. Delicious!

Interior of Greaves Jams in Niagara-on-the-LakeSamples from Greaves Jams on the Niagara-on-the-Lake Taste the Town TourBill led the group on a meandering walk through the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Every so often he would pause to point out prime examples of the architectural styles that dot this early Canadian town. His booming voice and entertaining anecdotes filled us in on the historical significance of key locations. This was a place of many firsts. First capital of Upper Canada. First museum. First library. First national bank. And this is the only place in Canada that has a Lord Mayor!

Walking Around Niagara-on-the-LakeBeautiful White House in Niagara-on-the-LakeMansion in Niagara on the LakeTudor-style-house in Niagara on the LakeHorse and Carriage in Niagara on the LakeOur next stop was an olive oil and vinegar tasting at Oliv Tasting Room. The owners import their oil from a family farm in South Africa, while the balsamic vinegars hail from Modena in Italy. The buttery flavour of the oils coated my tongue while leaving behind a fresh, green, peppery taste. The lovely owner of the shop shared a few of the uses of the products by handing out samples of quickly assembled hors d’ouvres. Garlic oil on popcorn won the day for me!

Olive-oil-bottles at Oliv Tasting Room in Niagara on the Lakepopcorn-and-oil at Oliv Tasting Room in Niagara on the LakeAfter the oil tasting, we plunged back onto the sun-filled sidewalks. We slowly wandered down to the edge of Lake Ontario where we got our next taste of the tour. We savoured a dark chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting and a luscious cheesecake bite courtesy of Con Gusto Artisan Bakery.

View of Lake Ontario from Somerset B&B in Niagara on the LakeCupcake-and-cheesescake from Con Gusto Artisan BakeryAfter a brief pause to rest our feet on the back patio of the Somerset B&B, we continued to our next two stops. At Bistro Six-One, we were greeted with a freshly wood-oven made Mediterranean style pizza and a beautiful dark amber beer. The aptly named Cheese Secret (a tiny shop hidden behind the buildings of the main drag – Queen Street) offered a sampling of their cheeses along with dried fruit and crackers.

Mediterranean pizza at Bistro Six-One in Niagara on the LakeCheese-and-fruit from Cheese Secret On the way to our final stop of the tour we passed The Olde Angel Inn. The home of a delicious restaurant and an even more delicious tale of ghostly visits. The Olde Angel, Ontario’s oldest operating inn, is said to be haunted by Captain Colin Swayze who was murdered by American soldiers while awaiting the arrival of his sweetheart. He is said to walk the Inn at night and be responsible for many unexplained occurrences. Anyone who knows me and my fascination with the spooky world beyond will realize that dinner at the restaurant is now on my “Must Do” list. I might just have to do a Haunted Walk blog post from Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The Olde Angel Inn Niagara on the LakeThe final stop of the tour was the Maple Leaf Fudge shop. My sweet tooth was gratified by the melt-in-your-mouth, in-house made, chocolate and maple fudge samples.

At this little shop a thought struck me about all the businesses we visited on the tour. They are small, local, often family run operations. They are the kind of places that make small towns special and need the patronage of both residents and tourists to continue operating. Niagara-on-the-Lake Taste the Town provides the tour goers with a 10% off coupon to each of the business for some after tour shopping. The boy and I were more than happy to oblige.

Fudge-sales-counter at Maple Leaf Fudge in Niagara on the LakeFudge-counter at Maple Leaf FudgeMaple Leaf Fudge boutique in Niagara on the LakeAnd since I’ve already let you in on my ghostly secret obsession, I might as well tell you that I also believe in fate. The fact that I now live in Canada, in London in particular, and the fact that I have a very special man in my life, I attribute to destiny. So I couldn’t leave Niagara-on-the-Lake without taking note of a very special sign. Maybe fate is telling me to find a more permanent spot in Canada’s prettiest town!

Monika's Boutique Niagara on the LakeSelfie while on the Niagara on the Lake Taste the Town Tour